NATIONWIDE: Last week Black Theatre United (BTU) hosted its inaugural event, a conversation between BTU founding member and moderator Audra McDonald and president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Sherrilyn Ifill. The virtual town hall called “Activating Black Artists and Allies for Racial Justice” can be watched in its entirety on Black Theatre United’s website.
BTU mentions the latest occurrences of police brutality as a catalyst for the forming of the group. The group is meant to harness the voices of artists across the country to elevate causes, overturn policies that target Black people, and generally use the visibility and influence of it’s members across all 50 states for good both in theatre and nationally.
“As members of the Black theatre community, we stand together to help protect Black people, Black talent and Black lives of all shapes and orientations in theatre and communities across the country,” BTU said in a collective statement. “Our voices are united to empower our community through activism in the pursuit of justice and equality for the betterment of all humanity. We will not be silent. We will be seen. We will be heard. We are here. Join us.”
Additionally, BTU has cultivated partnerships with Fair Count, an organization founded by Stacey Abrams that works with communities to work toward a fair and accurate count of all people in the 2020 Census, and Harness, a organization started by America Ferrera, Wilmer Valderrama, and Ryan Piers Williams to engage artists in social change. On June 17, BTU founding members Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad joined Fair Count for “Sisters Sip,” a Zoom happy hour discussing what it means to show up for their community as Black women, while still prioritizing their overall health.
BTU’s partnership with Harness includes the #BeCounted campaign, which features Stacey Abrams and Kerry Washington along with other activists, community leaders, and celebrities, to boost the participation of hard-to-count communities in the 2020 census.
Founding members of the group include Lisa Dawn Cave, Darius de Haas, Brandon Victor Dixon, Carin Ford, Capathia Jenkins, LaChanze, Kenny Leon, Norm Lewis, Audra McDonald, Michael McElroy, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Wendell Pierce, Billy Porter, Phylicia Rashad, Anna Deavere Smith, Allyson Tucker, Tamara Tunie, Lillias White, NaTasha Yvette Williams, Schele Williams, and Vanessa Williams.
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